Fruit-forward mead for wine lovers: ‘It’s just a matter of how and when’

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

Beacon thinks the mead industry is shaping up a lot like the craft beer industry did, and is showing all of the same developmental signs.
Beacon thinks the mead industry is shaping up a lot like the craft beer industry did, and is showing all of the same developmental signs.

Related tags: mead, Alcohol, Craft beer, craft beverages, Wine

A craft meadery from Long Island wants to break mead out of home brewing and into the mainstream, leveraging fruit flavors over honey.

On the North Fork of Long Island, long time friends Justin Feldstein and Chris Parles founded Beacon Meadery around two years ago. Parles found mead after working in craft beer, and realizing there was a home brewing scene for mead similar to beer.

He determined that most people are making mead from a beer perspective, and only a few were making it as more like wine. Parles and Feldstein saw the opportunity to widen the public’s exposure to mead made like wine.

Beacon Meadery launched its first product in May, and another two this fall. With Raspberry, Blueberry and Black Currant, Parles told BeverageDaily they chose to stick with fruit flavors that adhere to the wine aspect in terms of structure, tannins and acids.

Many of the mead makers that come from a beer background and choose to add fruit usually use a puree or concentrate, because that’s what works best with fermentation. But using raw materials like honey and whole fruits tend to be more challenging than traditional meads, Parles said.

Beacon wants to show people already familiar with mead what else it can do. Mead can range from a low ABV, carbonated and sweet, to a stronger, dry and still formula. Parles said this is occasionally a disadvantage for mead, because consumer recognition is low. If they try one mead, they think they understand the full category.

Whether sessionable or a slow sipper, Parles said existing wine drinkers should be able to find “something for them in the mead department that they recognize but is also new and interesting,”​ Parles said.

Mead is considered more of an enthusiast product, because making it is an expensive process, with ingredients like whole fruit and honey. Parles said Beacon’s audience is primarily into similar craft beverages, but recognition is growing.

“Even in the short time we’ve been doing this product, I’ve had to explain to fewer and fewer people what mead is,”​ Parles said.

He thinks the mead industry is shaping up a lot like the craft beer industry did, and is showing all of the same developmental signs. “It might not be quite as mainstream, but it’s definitely headed in that direction,”​ he said.

Beacon Meadery is currently self-distributing on Long Island and working its way to Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. The meads can also be ordered on Beacon’s website in 375ml and 750ml sizes.

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